Source Interlink Archives
June 12, 2012

In 1966, Jerry Titus' primary employment was his job as Technical Editor at Sports Car Graphic magazine. But he also enjoyed racing, and it was his talent behind the wheel that attracted the attention of Carroll Shelby. In 1965, Shelby tagged Titus to drive a Shelby G.T. 350 R-model in B Production competition. Titus won the national championship. It was a great relationship; Titus got to drive top-level equipment and Shelby benefitted with plenty of magazine coverage.

That coverage included the first drive report on the new '66 Shelby G.T. 350H in the April 1966 issue of SCG. Interestingly, Titus didn't play up the Hertz Rent-A-Car connection. Instead, the title of the article, "Driver's Report: 1966 Shelby G.T. 350 Automatic," focused on the three-speed Cruise-O-Matic transmission, which became an option for the 289 High Performance engine in 1966 and was also used in the majority of Hertz Shelbys. Perhaps the automatic angle appeased Ford Motor Company, which bought a back cover ad to tout the availability of the automatic behind the Hi-Po.

The photos are from the Petersen Publishing archives, which are now part of Source Interlink Media, Mustang Monthly's parent company. Several of the photos here were not used in the original article and are likely appearing in print for the first time. —Donald Farr

When Shelby American's Don Rabbit called us to see if we'd like to try a G.T. 350 with the three-speed automatic transmission, we decided the most interesting way to go was in one of the new Hertz versions. Truth being stranger than fiction, Hertz Rent-A-Car purchased 1,000 Shelby Mustang G.T. 350s and already has a bunch of them distributed around the country. Perhaps you've heard of the "Hertz Sports Car Club." When Chevy was the firm's major make, [Corvette] Sting Rays were made available to members of this club. After a check-out tour around the block to make sure the potential "member" could handle the power and four-speed transmission, he was given a "license" by the club so that the check-out could be foregone in the future. As of January 1 [1966], Hertz switched to Ford and their choice of a G.T. 350--with its ability to carry four passengers in comfort--as their sports car was quite logical. The rental cost is $13 a day and 13 cents a mile.

While the Hertz purchase entitled them to a special model, designated G.T. 350H, we found it very little different from the regular '66 Shelby horse. The distinctive and attractive black-with-gold-stripe paint jobs and tiny center caps engraved "Hertz Sports Car Club" are about it. Like all the '66 run, it has rear seats that fold down to form a platform. The external scoops just aft of the door edge deliver cooling air to the rear brakes. The other change is a plexiglass rear window where the vents go in the Ford Mustang. To reduce brake pedal pressure and retain hard enough lining and pad material (discs in front, drum brakes in the rear) for high performance work, a dual-system master cylinder has been incorporated. This is a hydraulic/mechanical advantage, not a vacuum-assist, with a small diameter piston taking the last out of the system before the larger second stage takes over the job of applying pressure [Editor's note: Since the '66 used a single reservoir master cylinder, we feel Mr. Titus is referring to the Kelsey-Hayes disc brake specific proportioning valve]. It gives the pedal a progressive and rather strange "feel," but it is lighter than normal.

The three-speed automatic is Ford's pride-and-joy, mainly because they don't have many other new innovations to talk about this year. It is a good gearbox, with positive upshifts and good ratios that complement the accelerative ability of the 289 High Performance engine. A short shift lever is located on the center console, the left tip of its "T" configuration a pushbutton-released lock-out for Low Range--at the extreme rear of the quadrant--and Reverse--forward past Neutral and just behind Park. Starting an acceleration run in First, you're locked in until you move the lever to Second. The shift is instantaneous, so you need only anticipate the redline on the electric tach mounted atop the dash by 150 rpms and keep your throttle foot flat to the floor. Then, to prevent a normal up-shift to Third gear, it is necessary to release the lock-out and move the lever back into Low Range. Again moving to Intermediate position allows the shift to Third. Sound complicated? Not very, but it is a little confusing until you practice it. Left in Drive, the trans is fully automatic, making its shifts at normal intervals, downshifting by throttle pressure and driveshaft rpms. You can manually back-shift by the same routine with the shifter as well.

Unlike the '65, the limited-slip differential is not standard. For around-town use, it's a blessing to be without one, as Shelby has thus far found only one unit that will stand up to the full-throttle power of the 289--and it clunks like mad on engagement. Sans the limited-slip, the car is much more prone to wheel-spin, but it also decreases the understeer and makes steering lighter.

We banged off some quick acceleration figures with the automatic and, sans speedo correction (it looked pretty accurate). They were: 0-60 mph in 7.9 seconds; 0-80 mph in 13.7 seconds, and 0-100 in 21.2 seconds. The G.T. 350H is available in standard four-speed as well. List price on the '66 Shelby car--in case a ride in a Hertz version impressed you--is $4,395 FOB St. Louis (splitting the freight costs across the country for either the automatic or four-speed version).

Let Hertz Put You on the Roof

As older readers will recall, the "Let Hertz Put You in the Driver's Seat" TV commercials in the 1960s usually ended with a happy couple "flying" from the sky into their rented convertible as it rolled along the highway (younger readers can find a clip on YouTube). Apparently, Titus and his staff thought they would have some fun with the ad campaign by photographing Titus in a tree, then afterwards as if he had jumped, or "flown," onto the Hertz Shelby, with the fastback roof obviously preventing his safe landing in the driver's seat. Not so sure that the photo stunt worked, but at least it showed that automotive journalists in the 1960s had a sense of humor.

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Where Is It Today?

A photo of Titus lifting up the rear fold-down seats may give us a clue about the road test G.T. 350H's identity. A hand-written "598" underneath the forward portion of the fold-down sent us to the Shelby American Automobile Club's '65-'67 Shelby Registry, where we learned that SFM6S598 was originally consigned to Ray Geddes, the Ford employee who served the liaison between Ford and Shelby. The car was also used as a Shelby demonstrator, so it makes sense that the car could have been loaned to Titus for the SCG road test. According to the Registry, 6S598 was black with gold and equipped with the automatic transmission and 14-inch Magnum 500 wheels, just like the test car. The latest update in the SAAC Registry indicates that 6S598 survives today, most recently owned by Steven Ainsworth in California.

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Although Jerry Titus was best known as a race car driver, he also gained respect as a technical writer for Petersen Publishing's Sports Car Graphic magazine. His experience behind the wheel gave him a unique perspective from behind the typewriter.